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Old 07-18-2014, 05:20 PM   #1
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Insurance survey - what should I expect?

As a result of us "going all in" and putting our house on the market to live aboard full-time, we'll have to switch insurance carriers for our trawler (they require a house and a homeowner's policy). The new insurance company is wanting a hauled insurance survey. We've had the boat for 12 years and haven't been required to do one before.

So from your experience, what should we expect from the outcome of this? The boat is in great shape but I'm sure there are picky items and even changes in standards over the last decade. I've heard about metal tray shields needed under Racors near engines and a bunch of little things like that.

I've been recommended a surveyor from a broker and I'm currently getting a quote from him. Any other advice?
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:30 PM   #2
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There are insurance surveys where the surveyor has a very basic list of things to check depending on what the insurance company wants...even hauling isn't required by some insurance companies.

Surprising that if changing insurance companies they don't want a new valuation survey too if it's been awhile since the boats last survey.

Sit back and just take it as it comes because if it's a full safety and valuation survey...the surveyor could go whole hog and pick up on things just like a pre-purchase and every surveyor has their little quirks as to what they like and what bugs them.

Let's see what a current surveyor and insurance guys says...
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:29 AM   #3
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We are having one done next week

they did the top and inside 2 weeks ago when they showed I had the engine room open and was in the middle of doing some basic maintenance the surveyor asked a few questions and did not seem very knowledgeable and said he would be back when I did my scheduled haul next week

I did ask him if he saw any issues he said not as far as he could see

my boat is a 25 years old
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Old 07-19-2014, 10:40 AM   #4
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Try to find the most accommodating surveyor, one who will discuss his findings before he writes his report so maybe you can modify the silliest of his requirements.

But once it gets in writing and particularly in the hands of the insurance company, it is hell to change it. The insurance company will require every major safety item to be fixed and sometimes all of the preference items. It is the later that you want to minimize.

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Old 07-19-2014, 12:06 PM   #5
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Maybe try and shop for another insurance company?

The problem with employing a "surveyor" is, none of them know your boat as well as you do. Why not just submit your maintenance log and your history of claims and see what happens?
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Old 07-19-2014, 12:21 PM   #6
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If he shows up with an ABYC book and tries to tell you that your boat must meet the latest build recommendations for new boats...fire him/her on the spot. And if the individual is a SAM/NAMS/SCAMS member, that is very likely what you can expect. I found a respected naval architect, who is also a highly regarded surveyor, who is by choice, NOT a card carrying member of these "front" organizations. He knows the difference between applying new standards in regard to a survey on an old boat. And by the way, if you find something in a report that looks like it's inappropriate for the build date of your boat....raise holy hell with the insurance company and with SAMS/NAMS. There are some "certified" idiots out there. Your boat was deemed "safe" when it was built and if it's in good condition....it's still safe per the USCG. There is an insidious partnership between the hammer tappers and the insurance companies, and owners are paying the price. I speak from personal experience with two surveyors who posses a "certificate" and very little else.
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Old 07-19-2014, 12:35 PM   #7
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I got a quote back for the surveying job - $1,060. It includes an out of the water survey and inside survey for the purpose of an insurance survey along with a valuation survey (which the insurance company is also requiring).

Does that seem reasonable? If this guy only knew we have a rating system for surveyors!

The insurance company isn't interested in any logs, bills, pictures, or personal claims. They want a SAMS certified surveyor to put something in writing, probably putting them (the surveyor) with some liability responsibility even though I'm sure his contact will disclaim any liability from me. I'd bet he'd have some liability with the insurance company for negligence if he missed something major.
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Old 07-19-2014, 03:01 PM   #8
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Just make sure that you make it clear to the surveyor that you want editorial rights to his report before he submits it.

My understanding is, at least in this country, surveyors have the same liability as building inspectors have: dick. All you are paying for is an "opinion."
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Old 07-19-2014, 03:17 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Xsbank View Post
Just make sure that you make it clear to the surveyor that you want editorial rights to his report before he submits it.

My understanding is, at least in this country, surveyors have the same liability as building inspectors have: dick. All you are paying for is an "opinion."
Doubt that will ever happen....if the guy signs it...it will say what he wants it too...opinion or not.

Now if he's a good guy who knows what you can negotiate prior to the final report...but once signed and a copy out there, changing it is a bigger issue for him.
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Old 07-19-2014, 03:34 PM   #10
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I don't buy the argument that if the boat was built in '06 (that is 1906 BTW) and it met all of the contemporary standards, then it doesn't have to have anything more done to it to be safe.

To state an absurdity in '06 boats didn't have to have solenoid shut off valves on the propane system (well they probably used coal in those days ;-). That was put into effect many decades ago and is a very good requirement.

Any insurance company that would accept '06 standards just isn't doing their job, which is saving themselves from claims but is also keeping us safe.

But having said that, there is lots in the current ABYC standards that I wouldn't bother doing to bring a boat up to the state of the art.

It takes good sense to do what is reasonable. The surveyor is your best arbiter of good sense. Now whether he has any or not is another question.

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Old 07-19-2014, 03:53 PM   #11
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Expect the ins co to want every safety deficiency and other deficiency noted in the report fixed via a plan and timetable.
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Old 07-19-2014, 05:53 PM   #12
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No one has commented in the price yet - $1,060. Does that seem right for a 53' survey? The last one we had done (a buyer's survey) was in 2003 and it was significantly less. But that was nearly 12 years ago.
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Old 07-19-2014, 06:06 PM   #13
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I had a recent survey and it was $15/boat foot. Seems like you are paying $20/boat foot. So, it seems a little high to me.
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Old 07-19-2014, 06:12 PM   #14
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No one has commented in the price yet - $1,060. Does that seem right for a 53' survey? The last one we had done (a buyer's survey) was in 2003 and it was significantly less. But that was nearly 12 years ago.

I paid $480 for insurance survey on our 27'er. Surveyor charged per foot so $1,060 on a 53'er seems in the ballpark to me. YMMV
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Old 07-19-2014, 06:39 PM   #15
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Just make sure that you make it clear to the surveyor that you want editorial rights to his report before he submits it.

My understanding is, at least in this country, surveyors have the same liability as building inspectors have: dick. All you are paying for is an "opinion."
Sorry to hear similar to the US.
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Old 07-19-2014, 06:45 PM   #16
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My original buyers survey had a number of deficiencies. I had some corrected before trucking the boat home, and corrected the rest after it had arrived.

I arranged for the surveyor to write up a followup survey, reporting all deficiencies repaired. He accepted photo's of the work he didn't personally see as proof it was done.
I then forwarded both copies to the insurance company.
All fairly painless.
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Old 07-19-2014, 08:05 PM   #17
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I don't buy the argument that if the boat was built in '06 (that is 1906 BTW) and it met all of the contemporary standards, then it doesn't have to have anything more done to it to be safe.

To state an absurdity in '06 boats didn't have to have solenoid shut off valves on the propane system (well they probably used coal in those days ;-). That was put into effect many decades ago and is a very good requirement.

Any insurance company that would accept '06 standards just isn't doing their job, which is saving themselves from claims but is also keeping us safe.

But having said that, there is lots in the current ABYC standards that I wouldn't bother doing to bring a boat up to the state of the art.

It takes good sense to do what is reasonable. The surveyor is your best arbiter of good sense. Now whether he has any or not is another question.

David
ABYC don't set safety standards....the Coast Guard does. And it's categorically NOT the job of insurance companies to keep me safe. The 1906 example is indeed absurd. However, propane systems are a good example of where surveyors often run amuck. I had one surveyor who stated in my pre-hire interview that a propane bottle not in a sealed container would be a "must" upgrade item. I called SAMS and spoke to one of their standards guys....who told me his own boat was an older trawler and the bottle was behind the flybridge console in a drained, but not fully sealed area. He thought that was just fine. Then I called the insurance company who had no such internal "requirement". Then I called the surveyor and told him to get lost. The more of you who put up with their incompetence, the more this plague will persist.

The boating industry needs to take a look at the small aircraft system. An airplane certified in 1964 was deemed safe by the government, and as long as it's kept in good condition and meets any mandatory government safety directives in the interim...it's safe. Certainly not as safe as an airplane certified in 2014, but it's "safe"....end of story. Insurance companies provide coverage on old airplanes all the time and they don't have a cadre of hired (by you) guns arbitrarily imposing later standards.

By the way, my insurance company also says they want a "SAMS/NAMS" accredited surveyor, but when I called them with my NA/surveyor's name, they said they knew him well, and that the SAMS/NAMS requirement really wasn't. Find someone with a good rep is the bottom line. Chances are the insurance company will accept the individual whether a SAMS/NAMS/SCAMS member or not.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:03 PM   #18
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A few thoughts:

- Be sure it's clear that the surveyor works for you, not the insurance company, and more particularly that the report gets delivered to you, and only given to the insurance company when/if you decide. If the report looks good to you, then its a tool to use shopping around with different insurance carriers. If the report is a disaster, burn it and start again with another surveyor. The key is to not let an unfavorable report get into the hands of the insurance company because then it will never go away, and will probably get shared with every insurance company on the planet.

- I'd have a conversation with the surveyor about the type and purpose of the survey, and try to feel him out on some of these issues. I agree that in general a 1980 boat shouldn't be expected to be retrofit to 2014 new-build standards. But I think there are also exceptions where you would probably want to upgrade. The propane shutoff valve is a good example. It's hard to envision all these in advance, but through a discussion you may be able to get a feel for how he handles older boats with respect to newer standards.

- Ask for references for other similar surveys that he's done, and talk to the owners about the survey and how things went with the insurance company.

Good luck!
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Old 07-19-2014, 10:09 PM   #19
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Choose carefully. Interview. Ask Questions. Treat it as if you were hiring a new employee.

That said, there are some excellent surveyors. Also, few problems with the true marine insurers. Especially when they are comfortable with the surveyor. They can distinguish the necessary vs. the would be nice. It's the inexperienced employee of an auto insurer that dabbles in boats who has the issues.

Having dealt with insurers of many different types of things over the years I know the frustration of having to deal with the wrong person. After a hurricane in Jamaica we were once told our rates were increasing 5 fold if we didn't rebuild a stronger building (capable of 150 mph vs. 135) even though we didn't own the building as the Jamaican government did. But also told we needed a sprinkler system there wasn't adequate water to support. Now explain the sudden need for sprinklers after flooding from a hurricane? So we switched to Lloyd's and kept our old rates.
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Old 07-20-2014, 02:03 AM   #20
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A client of mine just paid over $18.00 a foot up in Knoxville Tennessee for a "survey" that was more what I call a PRE-Survey which many surveyors do for from free -to a couple hundred bucks at most for a similar two page report. I've never seen such a minimal report in my life- with zero itemization of equipment! ZERO, and I mean from galley to batteries to engine room- to electronics..Have them? I don't know!!!

Said; "it rained the day before so I didn't use a moisture meter (probably didn't own one) but I tapped around with my hammer, it seemed good". Didn't bother to put water in the tanks to check the pressure system. Said the standing water in the lazarette "was probably from the cockpit being washed the day before"- and according to the owner apparently didn't know where switches were at when he got the recommendations of "Nav lights not working, spot light not working" (they do).

First he accidentally emailed me the survey he had done on the boat in 2011-it actually was even more minimal than this one, because on this one I personally told him areas I wanted inspected!! I called him and asked "why does your survey say the boat was blocked so didn't run engines, yet you told me you ran the engines tied to cleats for 30 minutes". Ooops. Oh, I love his sentence "bimini rail bent from inadvertent accident" -vs a accident on purpose? lol

Asked me if I knew a broker who had sent him to do several surveys for her. Happy to say, I've never met her. I shudder to think of the boats these clowns pushed. Doesn't subscribe to Soldboats.com either, so he just pulls figures out of his ass.

I've recommended the owner ask for his money back, and hire another surveyor and I'm going to report him to SAMS. Certified my ass! Oh-the photos? NO jpegs, just emailed us what appears to be a scanned copy of a PDF- all little postage stamp sized images, none labeled, some sideways on a page that may or may not be recent, as not dated either, but none of the 3 staterooms, or the 2 heads. None of the bottom from either survey!

PM me, and I'll tell you who this guy is. Unbelievable there's guys like this out there charging that kind of money. I emailed him a REAL survey of a same model boat, so he at least now knows what a survey should look like.

Had another boat surveyed yesterday by Bill Gladding in Jacksonville Florida. Now- HE'S A EXCELLENT SURVEYOR. You want to see thin guys with muscles wearing knee pads carrying the right equipment with them. Failed the shit out of the boat though, but we got our moneys worth- PLUS. Oh, I would like to do a shout out for Lambs Yacht Center for hauling, and cleaning the bottom of a 57' boat for only two hundred and Fifty bucks!! Buyer asked three times "you sure?" WOW.
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